By Molly Worthen
Contributing Opinion Writer
CHAPEL HILL — The 2016 election pushed the boundaries of common sense in many ways. Here in North Carolina, Donald J. Trump — the religiously indifferent, penthouse-dwelling germophobe — somehow emerged as the victorious defender of the pig farmer and the country church. Meanwhile, our state Republicans spent huge amounts of time stoking fear, not about the sluggish economy or the deteriorating state of public education, but about the grave dangers of open access to public bathrooms.
Both political strategies worked. Absurdity always has its own logic, and in 2016 that logic is the great culture war of our age: thriving, liberal cities versus impoverished rural counties. Mr. Trump capitalized on the mutual alienation between the two North Carolinas. Meanwhile, state Republicans rallied rural voters with their latest anti-city scheme: House Bill 2, drafted hastily last spring after the city of Charlotte revised its nondiscrimination ordinance to protect gender identity.
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